The capsule of apollo 16 it has been gathering dust in the decades since it carried three astronauts to the moon. There are cobwebs on the spaceship. On the floor of the huge display case that protects it in a museum are business cards, a pencil, money, a spoon and even lip balm.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routine cleaning at the Space and Rocket Center exhibit, located near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. But workers are preparing the spacecraft for the 50th anniversary of its flight in April 1972.
delicately, workers used microfiber cloths, telescopic poles, brushes, dusters and vacuum cleaners to freshly clean the 6.5-ton, three-meter capsule (almost 11 feet) and its display case, located next to a huge rocket saturn v that hangs from the ceiling. They removed dozens of objects that people had slipped through the holes in the display case.
In addition to supervising cleanliness, the consultantr Ed Stewart taught museum staff how to maintain the capsule, which is on loan from the Smithsonian and It has been on display since the 1970s in Huntsville’s “rocket city.”
Dressed in protective clothing, Stewart used a brush to brush dust off the side of the capsule. The module, he noted, was in “pretty good shape” for its age and the time that had passed since its previous cleaning.about three years ago.
Richard Hoover, a retired NASA astrobiologist who serves as a docent at the museum, recalled that decades ago, visitors could touch the spacecraft. Some even took pieces of the charred heat shield that protected the spacecraft from the heat when it returned to the atmosphere, he noted.
Protocol changed when conservatives realized that a ship built to withstand the rigors of space travel did not take well the constant touch of touristsStewart said.
The capsule now stands on columns, tilted so visitors can look through the hatch to see the controls and metal-rimmed seats in which astronauts Ken Mattingly, John Young and Charlie Duke traveled to the Moon and back.
Duke, who walked on the moon with Young while Mattingly piloted the capsule, is expected to attend a celebration this spring marking the 50th anniversary of the mission’s liftoff on April 16, 1972.
(with information from AP)
Photos: NASA’s archive of the Apollo program
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